His senior leadership was very helpful in the secondary during the 2007 season, but he has graduated and is on to bigger and better things, leaving a large hole in the secondary for Red Raiders to attempt to fill.
The odds on favorite at the beginning of last season to earn the starting nod was Anthony Hines, a punishing open-field tackler who is better in coverage than most and has a nose for the football. Hines had showed flashes during the entire 2007 season, but an injury against Oklahoma in the regular season finale may limit his participation in Spring practice.
Hines is a practice warrior and might have actually won the starting job at strong safety out right before the 2006 season had he not suffered a non-football related injury before the start of fall camp.
Hines is by far the largest of the prospective strong safeties and bring great size and athleticism to the position, though his speed leaves something to be desired.
Another potential starter would be Daniel Charbonnet, an undersized transfer from Duke University who has really come on strong as of late. He plays primarily in nickel and dime defensive packages as a slot corner, but his true position is safety.
Charbonnet is extremely undersized for the position but makes up for it with a tenacious mentality and great tackling. Charbonnet has been in on several huge plays over the last few seasons including a sack in the Insight Bowl, a tremendous open-field tackle of DeMarco Murray from the University of Oklahoma, and a text book pass break-up that was negated by an off-sides penalty during the Gator Bowl.
Not the fastest or the strongest possible candidates, he is certainly one to watch as a dark-horse who could provide multiple interceptions from the strong safety position, something that hasn't been seen since Ryan Aycock started at strong safety.
L.A. Reed is the complete wildcard in the competition at strong safety. A starting wide receiver a year ago, he was moved to defense to end the season and saw action only on special teams during the Gator Bowl.
Reed's move to safety has been approached mostly in a negative light but it could signify that the coaching staff wants to find ways to get him onto the field. He is, without a doubt, the best tackling player on the team regardless of position and has a penchant for big hits on special teams.
Reed will be well behind the others at strong safety in getting onto the field but has the needed tenacity to be a punishing tackler in the open field and, arguably, the fastest strong safety to start for the Red Raiders in a long time.
The most likely scenario would involve Hines as the starting strong safety with Charbonnet and Reed both seeing the field in certain defensive packages. This would allow for the best use of the unique talents on the roster at strong safety while ensuring